Your resume may land you an interview, but your references can seal the deal. The reference-checking firm of Allison & Taylor, which works for both employers and job hunters, says the strength of your references will separate you from other candidates. The firm suggests:
Provide the names, current job titles, company affiliations and phone number(s) of your references. If hirers have trouble finding your references, they're likely to move on to the next candidate.
Include a "frame of reference" sentence such as, "I was his direct report for six years, and he can tell about my key contributions to an information technology project that saved the company $3 million."
List references only who have agreed to be references and who you know will say positive things about you. (If you're not sure what they'll say, you can hire a firm like Allison & Taylor to make calls to find out.)
It's okay to use peers or subordinates as references. It's okay, too, to leapfrog over your direct supervisor if someone higher on the corporate ladder will be more complimentary.
Prospective employers frequently encounter supervisors who say they can share only basic "name, rank and serial number" information. Other colleagues may be more likely to speak freely.
Change your references to best fit the exact job you're aiming to get, particularly if you've had a varied career. If you're trying to get back into retailing, for example, it may be better to list a reference from the retail job you held 15 years ago than to list recent associates who can't vouch for your retail or customer-service skills.
As a courtesy, call your references after you've had interviews. Let them know they may hear from potential employers. Be sure to thank them and let them know if your status changes.
Make sure your references agree with the facts you've put on your resume. If your resume says you were "office manager" but your former boss describes you as "my secretary," it could give the impression that you were improperly inflating your credentials.